Victorians deserve the truth surrounding the catastrophic mental health toll lockdowns are having on the youngest people in our community.
Scathing media reports today have slammed the extreme lengths the Andrews Labor Government has gone to keep mental health data from the Victorian Agency for Health Information (VAHI) secret from Victorians.
The data paints a harrowing picture of plummeting wellbeing among youths and teenagers after 18 months of pandemic, with soaring numbers of teens self-harming, experiencing suicidal thoughts or struggling with eating disorders.
Shadow Minister for Mental Health Emma Kealy said keeping this crucial data secret from parents and the community meant we couldn’t develop the right response.
“The toll of lockdowns on the mental health of Victoria’s children and teens must no longer be kept as Labor’s dirty little lockdown secret,” Ms Kealy said.
“Why isn’t mental health considered as part of the overall health response? Labor has no plan to address the mental health crisis its failed COVID response has caused.
“Parents can see the toll of lockdown, of yo-yoing in and out of the classroom, of isolation from friends and loved ones and community sport.
“At a time when we desperately need to be doing more for our kids to minimise the harm and help relieve the pressure, the Andrews Labor Government is wilfully keeping crucial data secret.
“Eight teenage girls have taken their own lives in 2021. Weekly emergency department presentations for children and teens is up 27 per cent, but Labor’s Mental Health Minister James Merlino is totally missing in action.”
Ms Kealy said as well as releasing these VAHI reports, the Andrews Labor Government should put a bigger focus on mental health in its decision-making process.
“After six lockdowns and more than 18 months living under the uncertainty of pandemic, the toll on our mental health is getting worse – not better,” Ms Kealy said.
“The Andrews Labor Government claims to rely on the public health advice in its decisions, yet it’s guilty of excluding mental health advice from that process.
“The Liberal Nationals are calling for a respected mental health professional, with specific expertise in youth and adolescent mental health, to be appointed to the crisis cabinet to provide expert advice and input to proposed restrictions or extension of lockdown.
“It’s well past time that the pandemic of mental illness and ill-health caused by Labor’s lockdowns is brought out of the shadows.”